MARCH 21, 2004
MALAYSIAN GP - SUNDAY - RACE NOTES
Schumacher wins in Malaysia
Michael Schumacher (1st): "It was a tough fight all the way to the end, but I was quick enough when I needed to be at the start and end of each stint. The gap to Montoya opened and closed throughout the race and it was pressure all the way. At the start, as I was first I had no reference as to where the water was. In fact Turns 4 and 11 were slippery. Even though it was not sunny it was a tough race. As for the championship, it is easier to lead rather than have to fight back like last year. But we have only done two races and we know how quickly the other teams can progress. I have to say that Bridgestone did a fantastic job here, after we struggled at this track in the past."
Rubens Barrichello (4th): "I pushed hard all race long, doing as much as I could. I made a different tyre choice to my team-mate and it did not pay off. On top of that, in the opening laps, when it rained, my tyres quickly lost temperature and that's why I lost a few places. Unfortunately, the two seconds that kept me away from Button in the fight for the podium were lost when I was overtaking Baumgartner. In any case, I'm satisfied with the car, which confirmed its potential. Of course, I would like to have won, but at least I brought home five points which will be important for the championship."
Jean Todt, Team Principal: "It was an extraordinarily hard fought race from start to finish, with rain falling at the start making the situation even more tense. Michael did a good job of maintaining the lead, while Rubens lost a few precious places. I have to say Michael drove a perfect race from beginning to end. The team did an exceptional job and the strategy was spot on. It is very satisfying to see four Ferrari engines make it to the flag, three of them in the points. I must congratulate Sauber on their result as this season, it is no easy task finishing in the points. The F2004 confirmed it has great potential. The work done by Bridgestone in typically Japanese understated and methodical fashion is paying off. Thanks also to Shell, who supplied a high class product for our engines in very difficult climatic conditions. Today's battle has confirmed that we must leave nothing to chance in order to be competitive. The championship will be very close. Today Ferrari showed that, even in diametrically opposite conditions to Melbourne, it is competitive and, for the time being at least, victorious."
Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "It was a very hard race. Michael had chosen the soft tyres and Rubens the hard. We tried to modify Rubens' strategy to make up the places he lost in the early stages, but it did not work out as we had hoped. It was a bit frustrating, because he got very close to Button at the end. I think this win, on a track where we have struggled in the past few years, is very important and much of the credit must go to Bridgestone. They did a really exceptional job given that we used to find conditions like today's difficult to deal with. But we are still keeping our feet on the ground, because McLaren and Williams could always close the gap and we are ready for that. I think Michael has shown he is even stronger than in the past and I don't know where that comes from."
Juan Pablo Montoya (2nd): "I had a good first few laps and I managed to get in front of Rubens. Then I had quite a smooth race.†Towards the end I was trying to catch Michael because I felt my car was just getting better and better. Unfortunately,†after my third and last stop †I exited the pit lane behind Rubens. I tried to pass him but then I preferred to back off as I did not want to compromise a good second position. I realised at this point that the most important thing was taking home some valuable points for the team and for myself."
Ralf Schumacher (DNF, Engine): "I had a reasonable start but got trapped in traffic, so I lost several positions and dropped to 9th place. At the third lap I had contact with Webber and my front wing was damaged, causing massive understeer, especially in sector two which was obvious from my times. I was trying to overtake Mark but then I realised there was not enough room and I backed off, trying to avoid the collision, however Mark didn't give me enough space.†Finally I had a technical failure, which caused an early end to my race."
Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "The team did a good job today with excellent pit stops. We were happier with our race performance than we were in qualifying. However, we still have a lot of work to do on the chassis, engine and tyres. The whole package needs improving and we will be pushing hard to close the gap in the championship. Juan had a good start and drove a fighting but cool-blooded race. Ralf struggled after the start and then had the engine failure."
Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Compared to the season opener in Melbourne this race marked a considerable improvement, despite Ralf suffering an engine failure. Juan Pablo was able to keep up with Michael's pace over the race distance which is encouraging for the forthcoming Grands Prix. After Juan Pablo found himself behind Rubens and lost some ground on Michael Schumacher he lost his chance to catch up with the leader. At this stage we slightly reduced the engine revs. The engine failure on Ralf's was completely unexpected and was not due to the hot temperatures. We didn't take any big risk either. The failure must have been due to a defective part. We will now have a look at it in Munich in order to identify the part. After an early collision Ralf was no longer in a position to fight for a top finish."
David Coulthard (6th): "We can take some satisfaction from the fact that we have improved our package since Melbourne, but we still have some way to go. I made a good start, gained a few places and got involved in some quite exciting battles. I found it difficult to hold the car in the fast corners and at one point had a bit of a moment where I very nearly lost it but managed to stay on track, however I lost a few seconds in the process. Sixth place is not brilliant, but at least we have improved and I know that everybody in the entire team will continue to work hard until we are where we want to be which is at the front."
Kimi Raikkonen (DNF, Transmission): "It's never nice not to finish a race, not only for me but also for the team. However, whilst we need to become even more competitive at least we have taken a step in the right direction, and I know everybody will continue their efforts to improve even further. We were close to getting on the podium today, but in my second pitstop we struggled to get the fuel nozzle to come off, so we lost important time to BAR and Jenson could take third. A few laps later something broke in my transmission, and that was the end of that. I'm now hoping that we can take another step in time for the next race in Bahrain."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Despite Kimi's transmission failure and David's difficult race, we have increased the competitiveness of the car and the team as a whole since Melbourne. Our intensive test and development programme will continue in the run up to Bahrain which will hopefully once again be positively reflected in our performance."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "The reliability and our speed must be further improved and everybody in the team is aware of this. We will continue to work in a focused manner to make our overall package better and more reliable."
Jarno Trulli (5th): "It's a satisfying result, given that I started eighth and all our competitors were very strong today. I got a very good start, but must apologise to Jenson: I touched his car on the way to the first corner. I had a good battle with him and Rubens in the first stint, very clean, and I was enjoying the race. However, after my first stop, the front tyres started graining, and I lost time in the second and third stints relative to my closest rivals. The car was understeering a lot during this part of the race. Having said that, we were reliable and once again have two cars in the points: we can't be too disappointed."
Fernando Alonso (7th): "I am pleased to score two points after what happened yesterday. Obviously, everything changed for us after qualifying and in that perspective this is a pretty positive result. However, our strategy didn't really work out and I think I could have finished even higher up. The car was competitive, but quite tricky to drive: the balance wasn't particularly good during the race. It is always difficult here in Malaysia, and our mistakes during the weekend didn't make life any easier. But when you finish seventh after starting last, things could be worse."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Both cars made good progress early in the race, climbing quickly through the field. Jarno found himself among very competitive opposition, and when everybody is running similar strategies, it is hard to be creative. Fernando soon found himself among potentially slower cars and we decided to change to a two-stop strategy to try and help him past them. Unfortunately, this didn't work, but neither did he lose any positions."
Flavio Briatore, Managing Director: "It is a disappointing result for us after we had expected to fight at the front here in Malaysia. When Fernando was stuck in the pack, we decided to change his strategy but unfortunately, the result didn't match up to our expectations. As for Jarno, he had an eventful race and he fought well for his fifth place. The team worked very well all weekend, and we will learn from our mistakes in order to achieve our full potential in Bahrain in two weeks' time."
Jenson Button (3rd): "There are no words to describe the feeling of your first podium and this one has been a long time coming. It's a fantastic result for the team in only our second race of the season and I'm delighted for everyone - the team, Honda and all our partners - because they have worked so hard for this. It was a tough race but so enjoyable because we were very competitive. Everyone has done a great job over the winter and made such a good step forward. This really is a sign that BAR has some very exciting times ahead."
Takuma Sato (15th, Engine): "Obviously it was extremely disappointing that we weren't able to finish the race with only three laps to go. The car was very strong and we had good race pace. Unlike many of the drivers, we chose a two-stop strategy but it was working very well. I had a very good start and was determined to make up places off the grid. I was up to 11th by the end of the first lap and then obviously I wanted to keep pushing because I knew a points finish was within my grasp. Unfortunately I made a mistake at turn 6 at the time when the track was starting to get damp and as a result I went off. I was able to rejoin the race and I just put everything I had into getting back into the top 8. I concentrated hard on every lap and it was great to be racing with the Renault at the end. Despite the disappointment, I'm very happy for the team and we have shown today that there are some very exciting race performances to come from all of us."
David Richards, Team Principal: "Jenson and the team have worked very hard for this result, and to get his first podium in a straight fight with the best in F1 is real proof of how far we have come. I am very disappointed for Takuma, as he has had a difficult weekend, but was on track to capitalise on his two-stop strategy with a points finish. It can't be long before he is joining Jenson in the points. For Honda, Michelin and all our partners this really is the start of exciting times at BAR."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "This is an excellent result for the team - the first podium for the BAR-Honda-Michelin partnership. We put a difficult start to the weekend behind us and although we were disappointed with our qualifying performance we had confidence in our race pace, which was borne out today. The car and tyres worked well in the hot conditions and the drivers were able to race very competitively, their differing strategies both paying off. Today's result is a genuine reflection of how much we have improved and I think the whole team deserve to be feeling very proud of our performance today."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "It's a great feeling to be on the podium again. Jenson drove a brilliant race, and the whole team worked really well over this weekend to make it possible. It was a real shame we had an engine problem with Taku's car after he too showed excellent race pace and was running in a points-scoring position near the end. This is the first step, and we still have a lot of work to do, but it shows we are heading in the right direction."
Felipe Massa (8th): "I had a bit of a clutch problem from the start of the race, which made all my pit stops a bit nerve-wracking. I also found it very difficult on the first lap out of the pits on new tyres. That's why I had that moment in Turn 13 around lap 42 - I just couldn't hold the steering wheel! I went right over the grass and luckily Michael managed to miss me. It was very difficult to try and catch the drivers in front, but in the end this was a really good result for us. I scored my first point here in 2002, so it's good to come back and do the same two years later. This was very important for us, to score a point for Petronas."
Giancarlo Fisichella (11th): "I had some moments in the first two corners after the start and lost a lot of places, so after that we decided to change our refuelling strategy slightly. Then unfortunately the engine stalled in the second stop and again in the third, so I lost even more time. The car wasn't too bad in between all that."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "We all know that this is a very, very extreme race, for the engines, the tyres and especially for the drivers. I'm very happy that we scored a point with Felipe, and this is a fitting gift for all our friends in Malaysia."
Christian Klien (10th): "My start was not good and I am certainly frustrated with this. I did however, actually enjoy the race and it was good for me. The first few laps were made difficult by the rain and I was pleased just to stay on track. The pace of the car was good and the balance and set-up for the track was ideal for me, thanks to my mechanics. I was racing with the Jordan of Fisichella and the Toyota of Panis and I felt really confident in the R5. Unfortunately my third pit-stop cost me a couple of places as my fuel cap would not open and the team had to do it manually. Before Bahrain we will be looking to understand more about why I had a slow start and why the fuel cap did not open. The main thing for me is finishing after what has been an incredibly tough ninety minutes but also rewarding for me."
Mark Webber (DNF, Spin): "I am really disappointed with the outcome today after all of our hard work and our fantastic place on the front row of the grid for the race. I had a bad start with the car and things did not get much better after that. After overtaking Ralf Schumacher twice he hit me from behind and my rear right tyre had a puncture and the car may have suffered some damage too. I then had to limp to the pits to be re-fuelled and have the tyres changed. The drive through penalty added to my troubles and after then going off-line several times to let people overtake me I spun under braking. A very difficult end for us which should not have been the case. The pace of the R5 is evident and we had a great package and set-up for today. I know that the team are going to be working very hard over the next few weeks and I am confident that together with Michelin, Cosworth Racing and Pi Research we will move forward."
Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "This has been a very unsatisfactory finish to the weekend for all of us. Both R5s were slow pulling away at the start and after many good practice starts this weekend we will be investigating this throughly on our return to the factory. Mark did a good job to then make up some places and overtake Ralf Schumacher (BMW-Williams) twice. It then appears that he was hit by Ralf from behind causing him to suffer a right rear puncture and damage to the car. The mechanics did a good job to turn him around with new tyres and fuel and get him back out as soon as they did. The drive through penalty is frustrating for us and of course to not have Mark finish is not what we had hoped for. Christian did a good job with the R5 today and to have him finish is encouraging. The car has been reliable and Cosworth Racing, Pi Research and Michelin have done an outstanding job this weekend as they always do. We at Jaguar Racing have a lot of hard work ahead of us between now and Bahrain as we know that we have a competitive package and getting both drivers to the finishing line and scoring points is what we are capable of."
Cristiano Da Matta (9th): "It was quite a difficult race. The limited running I had during the practice sessions did not affect my qualifying lap yesterday, but I think it hurt us in the race today. I suffered from a lot of understeer throughout, and unfortunately the adjustments we made during the pitstops did not really help much. I got a good start up to eighth place into the first corner, but I was forced to run wide at turn 4, which lost me a lot of places. From there, we used some good pitstop work to make up the places we lost, but I have to admit that it is a bit frustrating to finish ninth and just outside the points."
Olivier Panis (12th): "My start was very good and I made up a couple of positions, but I think that somebody must have pushed me from the back because I spun. I worked hard to make my way through the field after that to regain positions and was running quite strongly in tenth place until a radio communication problem resulted in an unscheduled pitstop. It is a real pity because the car felt good and was handling well. The final result showed that we could have been in contention for a point today. Nevertheless, I take heart from the hard work the team has put in since Melbourne to significantly improve our overall package and I am looking forward to the next race in Bahrain."
Tsutomu Tomita, Team Principal: "To have a second consecutive two-car finish is extremely good and underlines the reliability of the TF104s. Both drivers suffered from a lot of traffic confusion on the opening lap, but the overall result has also been a little bit better than Melbourne, which is certainly pleasing. We clearly still need to find some pace, but we are always heading in the right way and know what we have to do."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Chassis: "Ultimately, it was disappointing not to get both cars in the top ten today and to miss out on a championship point by one position. After good starts, both drivers had difficulties on their first laps, which meant that the first half of the race was spent trying to get past the cars in front of us. Some good strategy resulted in us getting past them, but a radio communication problem meant that Olivier came into the pits unnecessarily and then got a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Overall, it was good to see both cars to the finish line to maintain a 100% finish record, and a much stronger performance than we had in Melbourne."
Giorgio Pantano (13th): "I have to say it was a hard weekend for us, the difficulties started in qualifying when we had a problem with car. In the end we were able to fix it for the race so I used my original car although it meant starting from the pit lane. I think I drove quite a consistent race, but it was just a little bit hard at the end because my drinks bottle didn't work throughout the race and it was quite exhausting by the finish."
Nick Heidfeld (DNF, Transmission): "I had to retire because I was getting stuck in gears for short periods and although at first I was able to shift again, it got worse until I was stuck in fifth gear for more than a lap and after that there was no point carrying on. Realistically the race was over for me after my first pit stop because no fuel went into the car and I had to come in to stop again, very slowly as well so as not to run out of fuel on the circuit. I was trying to move up the field when the gears went. Although it's disappointing not to finish because of technical problems, on the positive side I made a really good start and my speed wasn't bad at the beginning. I kept a few cars behind me - Toyota, Jaguar, Sauber - our pace was quite good."
James Robinson, Head of Race and Test Engineering: "It was disappointing not to get Nick across the line at the end as he did a fantastic start and was running high up the order and one of the last ones to pit which, strategy-wise, was good. Unfortunately the fuel rig failed to deliver fuel on his first stop and he had to pit again, which cost him eight places or so and put him to the back of the field. From there he started to fight forward, putting in good lap times, when he had a transmission problem and the car was locked in fifth gear. We asked him to stay out to see if it would clear however it wouldn't so we chose to retire the car. Giorgio started from the pit lane as we decided he should go back in his race car and considering that, he was in a fairly good position at the start. He fought on and it was good to get the car home. It's encouraging although somewhat frustrating that we may have had the chance to score a point with Nick as he was fighting with Massa at the beginning and he finished in the points."
Gianmaria Bruni (14th): "It was a tough race, particularly as I had to drive the last 30 laps without power steering. Overall, the car was consistent and the balance was good for what we have. This was my first 'full-distance' Grand Prix finish and I particularly want to thank the guys for the fantastic job they did today, and all weekend. We did the best we could today with the package we have and now I hope we can go forward. I am very happy."
Zsolt Baumgartner (16th): "It was a tough race. I was struggling for much of the time with a chassis imbalance - the front end was quite good, but the rear was unstable, with too much oversteer. I got in front of Gimmi at the start, but then made a small mistake and he got me back. One of the most difficult things this afternoon was letting people pass while still trying to keep racing. This was definitely one of the toughest events I've ever done, and I'm very pleased to have finished."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Fourteenth and sixteenth positions probably don't do justice to gutsy efforts from both our drivers today. With the reliability enjoyed by most competitors, it was the best we could do, but having said that, it's always good to get both cars home. My thanks go to the whole team, and to our partner, Bridgestone, who provided us with fantastic tyres all weekend. We now look forward to the next Grand Prix, in Bahrain, which should be equally hot."